A city crew turned up at South Surrey’s Old Curio Shop with a bulldozer Thursday.
But both bylaw staff and the sister of the proprietor agree the presence of the crew was about tidying the site, not shutting the business.
The shop, at 1430 King George Blvd., has become legendary – even showing up in on-line antique collecting and ‘picker’ blogs – for its mind-boggling, floor-to-ceiling profusion of second-hand items.
Contacted Thursday, Ed Warzel, manager of bylaw enforcement and licensing, was adamant the city has no plans to close down or bulldoze the store, as some neighbours and bystanders had supposed.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Surrey’s about keeping businesses open.”
“It’s just a very normal procedure, a project we’re doing with the city,” said Stephanie Cohen, who identified herself as the sister of owner Barry Cohen, when Peace Arch News called the store Thursday.
“There were some dying blackberry bushes that had to be cleared,” she said.
“It’s something they’re doing all over the city. We hope they help us again with this.”
Warzel had a slightly different version of why the crew was at the store.
“Bylaw officers have been dealing with the owner of this property since 2009,” he said. “We’ve been responding to complaints about the tidiness of the property.
“Today we sent out a crew to clean up the front area of the property, which is primarily a city boulevard.
“There’s been an accumulation, a collection of, for want of a better word, stuff. Some, I suspect, is of value, some of it is junk. It’s one of those things that is very personal. He’s been in the area a long time, and you don’t just get there overnight. But you can’t just leave that sort of thing lying in yards.”
Warzel said his department regularly deals with similar situations throughout the city.
“Our primary goal is to ask people to clean it up themselves. Officers will go out and talk to the people, and 97 to 98 per cent of the time it’s done by the property owner.”
Warzel noted Cohen had been co-operating fully with cleanup efforts.
“We’re hoping to provide the owner with the help to get this done,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.
“It’s a matter of making it meet the standards the community expects and the city expects.”
The presence of the city crew fueled speculation that the city would shut down the shop, which has become increasingly packed with second-hand merchandise in recent years, with items spilling onto the surrounding property.
“It’s sad, in a way, but it’s time,” said one passerby who said she knew Cohen 10 years ago.
“You can’t move in there, and every one of those cars parked out front is Barry’s, but each one is filled with stuff.
“Whenever he needs more room, he buys another car and fills it up.”
– with files from Nick Greenizan